31st March 1995 at 01:00
Spring: the sap is rising, birds are nesting and the unions are girding their loins for election time once more.

Once more, the curious displays of those desperate to make their mark on a reluctant electorate are in full flow, with the usual preening giving way to full-blooded displays of naked aggression.

Connoisseurs of this genre particularly enjoy the shenanigans exhibited by the lecturers' union NATFHE at these stressful times, and the current season is shaping up to be particularly fine, with a delightful spat developing between treasurer Vicky Seddon and national executive member Fawzi Ibrahim.

Battle was commenced when Mr Ibrahim, a lecturer at the College of North West London, wrote to The TES describing the employers as having a "slave-owning mentality".

Ms Seddon took exception to this in a subsequent letters page, writing: "He insults the suffering to thousands, possibly millions of people worldwide, who live in conditions of slavery, indentured to their employers, bound by life-long debts or the knowledge that they and their children would starve without the meagre rewards of their labour.

"To compare even the worst conditions of FE lecturers in England and Wales to this is untrue and offensive."

Enough said, one might have thought. But no. Mr Ibrahim - up for election - has entered the fray once more, accusing Ms Seddon of misquoting his original phrase. He concluded: "As for the old-style colonialist undertones of Ms Seddon's letter (patronising people in under-developed nations), it is being referred to the anti-racist committee of the NATFHE."

Could this possibly be the same Fawzi Ibrahim who, last year as part of his campaign for Ms Seddon's treasurer post accused her of "emotional instability" and added: "It has not been uncommon for Vicky Seddon to leave meetings in tears at the first hint of an argument or even a simple disagreement?" Apparently it could.

And did Ms Seddon report him to the union's anti-sexism committee for the tone of his remarks? Apparently not. "She just thought it was politics and better left as it was," explains a weary voice.

A rare touch of humour surfaced this week in the long-running standoff between Hackney Council and Kingsmead School - known to the tabloids as the primary with the Romeo and Juliet head.

Regular readers will recall the scenario: head Jane Brown refused Pounds 7 tickets for her pupils to see the ballet of Romeo and Juliet.

Apparently she also made some remark about its being an "entirely heterosexual" story and in the subsequent furore the council alleged some irregularity about her appointment. Some 14 months later the governors' inquiry is still waiting for evidence from education director Gus John.

Despair all round, particularly when "unhelpful" tales started appearing in the right-wing press last week.

But light at the end of the tunnel for the school seemed to be the glowing Office for Standards in Education report, which arrived this week.

Imagine the surprise of staff at the primary - tucked away at the back of a council estate - when a dispatch rider from Hackney roared up to the school at 2.30 on Monday afternoon, demanding a copy of the report from Ms Brown.

Teaching, she was unable to help and so Hackney contacted OFSTED in desperation. Why do you need another copy, came the reply - we sent one around which was signed for at 9.28 this morning.

Sadly, the signature was illegible and a thorough search of Hackney offices has failed to turn up the rogue report.

"It's like a cross between the Keystone Kops and the Borgias," gloats the National Union of Teachers' Man in Hackney.

The marathon-running Bishop of Ripon, chairman of the Church's Board of Education, was doubtless looking forward to a cracking good talk about religious education at the Royal Society of Arts earlier this month.

Imagine his disappointment to find the beastly newshounds slavering for one thing only - a statement on homosexuality, education and the brave decision by Bishop Rawcliffe of Glasgow to Reveal All in retirement.

As Mr Rawcliffe now lives in the Ripon diocese, it is the local bishop who feels bound to square up to the massed inquisitors on his behalf.

"Exactly who is he?" enquired one more than usually well-briefed television hack puzzled about the Bishop of Ripon's responsibilities.

An explanation quickly followed.

"So," she said, enlightened,"the Board of Education is in charge of homosexuality."

Picture the scene: the man from the National Audit Office was visiting an educational quango, putting the chief executive and his financial assistant through their paces. They and their organisation emerged unscathed, but there was one sticky moment. "What do you do about gifts?" asked the NAO man. The two looked at him nonplussed. "Can you give us an example so we know what kind of thing you are taking about?" "Well," said the NAO man, "the last firm I visited the managing director had just returned from a holiday in Switzerland with his family which was paid for by a printer." With one breath, the two enquired:"What's the name of the printer?" Grant-maintained school heads have a new mantra, obligingly provided by an enthusiast of transatlantic buzzwords at their national conference recently. "Sacred cows make the best burgers. " Remember where you heard it first.

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